How To Apply For Social Security Retirement Benefit
Knowing how to apply for Social Security retirement benefits is important when the time approaches to retire. But first, there are questions that have to be answered and decisions that have to be made. Not everyone applies for Social Security benefits at the same stage in their lives.
- First, you have to find out if you are eligible to apply. If you were born in 1929 or later, you need 40 credits (or ten years) of working.
- Your 35 highest years of working are averaged to make the calculation for your payment. Years when you have no or few earnings may have to be included in order to arrive at 35 years of working. If you stop working much earlier than age 62, that will reduce the amount of your benefit because your average earnings will be less.
- Your benefit payment depends on the age when you retire, as well as the average of the earnings you made during your working years. The Social Security Administration provides a "retirement estimator" and a "benefit calculator" that will help you determine approximately what your benefit will be.
- If you retire before your full retirement age, the benefit payment is permanently reduced and will be approximately 25% less. If you work past your full retirement age, however, your benefit will be increased at eight percent per year for every year that you delay requesting Social Security.
- If you work after starting Social Security, you are limited to how much you can make each year without losing part of those earnings back to Social Security. The earnings limit usually increases every year. Also, if you work when getting Social Security, or are self-employed, you will continue to pay Social Security and Medicare taxes.
- What documents will you need in order to apply? You will need your Social Security number and birth certificate (if you don't have the original, you can get a certified copy from Vital Records in the state where you were born) or proof of citizenship in the U.S. You will also need W-2 forms and/or a self-employment income tax return for the last year worked, and any military discharge papers.
- Do you want direct deposit for your benefit payment? Then also bring a blank check which shows your bank's name, your bank's routing number and your account number.
If you decide that you are eligible and want to apply for your Social Security retirement benefits, and you are at least 61 years and nine months old, you can do so by telephone at (800) 772-1213, online or by going to your local Social Security office (call first to make an appointment).